As travel slowly begins to pick up, a renewed hospitality market is emerging. Most notably, traveler behavior has been significantly affected by the pandemic, which is sure to have an impact on how hotels envision their acquisition strategy for years to come. Dealing with this drastic change in the market properly is no small feat and will require hotels to demonstrate both long-term foresight and flawless execution in order to thrive.
The aim of this article is to leave no hotel behind in the post-pandemic reconstruction process. By considering and applying the following five tips, hotels should be able to enter the recovery market with confidence and start working towards lasting success.
1. Understand post-pandemic guest behavior
In recent years, the hotel industry has been moving towards a more customer-centric approach to hospitality. Concretely, this meant that the hotels would aim to be attentive and closer to the needs of their customers and to constantly adapt their offer accordingly.
In a post-COVID-19 world, these needs have changed dramatically. Studies show that customers are now much more sensitive to a new type of travel, with an emphasis on sustainability and contributing to the local economy. On the flip side, many business travelers, who were the bread and butter of some hotels, are likely to travel much less, if at all.
All of these changes in traveler behavior will have a massive and lasting impact on hotels. In order to meet these new expectations, hotels need to develop a deep understanding of their customers: from who they are to what they want. Above all, remember that all your big plans and your brilliant long-term vision mean nothing if they are not grounded in reality; and reality is your guests. By simply asking them what they want, you can go a long way in shaping an effective recovery strategy.
2. Make digitization a priority
If there is one sector that has really benefited from the pandemic, it is e-commerce. While stuck at home, people have grown accustomed to buying goods and services over the Internet; and hotel rooms are certainly no exception. In a post-COVID travel market, hotels cannot afford to rely solely on external platforms to ensure their digital presence.
In case you’ve already been slacked into the scanning department, there is still time to revisit your online strategy before travel resumes. Here is a list of priorities to work on:
- Diversify your online offer through multiple channels (website, OTA, Airbnb, etc.)
- Optimize the design of your website (UX, UI, booking experience, photo quality, …)
- Invest in good management of social media and content production
- Work on your SEO and configure your hotel on the Google Suite, including My Business, Travel and Analytics
By working to improve your hotel’s digital presence, you significantly reduce the amount of commissions paid to intermediaries while reaching a much larger potential clientele.
3. Get the right tools for your ambitions
Just as a craftsman needs a toolbox large enough to showcase all of their talents, a hotelier must be well equipped to be successful in a highly competitive market. This principle applies to your hotel physically (up-to-date equipment, contactless technology, etc.) as well as digitally.
Focusing on the latter, there are many useful solutions in the industry that can help differentiate your offering from similar establishments. From personalized pricing solutions to upselling tools and direct booking widgets, you can easily find multiple ways to entice potential customers to book at your hotel. Any solution that speeds up (speeds up / speeds up) your guests’ decision-making process, improves their online experience, or maximizes your overall online income should be a welcome addition to your tech stack.
During the recovery period, you also need to make sure you stay on the lookout for innovative technologies that have emerged from the pandemic. For example, solutions that allow you to capitalize on new habits, such as daily bookings, are a great way to set your hotel apart from the crowd.
4. Don’t sleep on online marketing
For too long, digital marketing has been the preserve of the OTA monopoly led by Booking.com and Expedia. Indeed, previously, almost all hotel queries on search engines had a top link redirecting to one of the major booking platforms. This status quo left very little room for hotels to compete in the digital marketing space.
However, the COVID-19 outbreak has triggered a global paradigm shift. As travel stopped around the world, OTAs decided to shut down all of their digital marketing campaigns. Booking Holdings, the parent company of Booking.com, has cut its marketing spend by 56%, from 4.97 billion in 2019 to 2.18 billion in 2020. This behavior is unlikely to be limited to the pandemic.  In the aftermath, major players such as Expedia have said they will gradually shift spending from billions of digital advertisers to a more loyalty-based customer acquisition strategy.
This is in addition to the fact that Google is now looking to allow hotels to get more traffic with a few changes to their platform and search algorithm. If you haven’t yet set foot in digital marketing, now is a great time to get started. Below is a list of some of the actions you might consider taking to improve your online traffic:
- Advertise on Google Ads and Google Travel to Capture Qualified Leads
- Promote your offers on social networks, especially Instagram and Facebook, which are the most qualitative platforms for hotels
- Set up tags to track your campaign performance and adjust them accordingly.
- Encourage your users to sign up for your newsletter and send them regular emails to build customer loyalty and generate direct bookings.
- Collect new digital leads thanks to innovative solutions
A complete guide on how to get started with digital marketing is available here.
5. Accept that you are wrong
The hospitality market is probably in one of its most volatile phases of all time. With the constant evolution of new containment measures, quarantine regulations and open border policies, it is extremely difficult to know exactly when people will return to their old ways of travel.
Against this backdrop, hotels will need to make bold decisions based on where the market is going or how they anticipate guest behavior will change. Obviously, as they navigate this unpredictable market, hoteliers are bound to make mistakes along the way, whether it’s a premature reopening or an inaccurate prediction of new trends. These mistakes are part of any successful recovery strategy and are essential to achieving a better understanding of the renewed industry.
While hoteliers cannot guarantee perfect navigation in such a volatile environment, they have the power to learn from their mistakes. To do this, hospitality companies must learn to become much more malleable than before. It is about adopting agile management methods, close to that of a start-up, where changes can occur as soon as the market requires. At the end of the day, the only real mistake hotels can’t afford to make is hanging on to their predictions no matter what.
About PrivateDeal SA
PrivateDeal SA is a Swiss company created in partnership with the Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne and providing an Intelligent Negotiation Solution for hotels. As a cloud-based system configured directly on the hotels website, PrivateDeal allows guests to quote a price for a stay in response to which it will accept or negotiate the offer via an AI-powered algorithm. The platform helps hoteliers increase direct bookings while better tracking their pricing strategy through a demand driven approach.